No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #72

For the second time this year. No Time To Play is down as I write these lines, so I don't know when my words will reach you. Clearly it was a bad idea to keep all my eggs in one basket. For various reasons, I can't change hosting companies now, and even if I did, that wouldn't solve the underlying problem of having a single point of failure.

So in an effort to expand and diversify, I started a No Time To Play tumblelog, with a different focus (though still related to game development). Additionally, I'll be trying to put together a No Time To Play book, starting from a selection of content on this blog that stands on its own and best represents my original vision. Don't hold your breath, though. I just can't make any promises.

On to the week's news...

First we have Emily Short writing about the relationship between world model, plot and verbs, where "verbs" means the range of actions players can use in the game: moving, opening doors, looting crates, shoothing... Which is interesting, because just a month ago (see Weekly Links #68) Andrew Plotkin was touching on a closely related topic. And no earlier than March, Chris Crawford complained in an interview that games rely too much on verbs such as move and shoot, while being notoriously poor at modeling social interactions. It grated me at the time because, seriously? Dating sims, anyone? And to her credit, Emily Short explicitly points out the genre in her own article. She also points out that there's no reason why shooting a gun can't advance the story of a game if it's set up that way. I'll add that it can definitely advance the story of a detective novel. Not so much that of an action movie, when there's so much shooting all the time that it becomes banal.

So you see, it's not what verbs you use but how.

To move from game design to criticism, Shamus Young recently published an opinion piece provocatively titled 50 Shades of the Dark Knight, and quite interesting. Basically, his argument boils down to these couple of lines:

Portraying something is not the same as promoting something. More importantly, this argument presumes the audience is just a bunch of dumb cattle.

Which is correct, but as a long-time writer (however unsuccessful), I can say with certainty that no, readers make no difference between authors and their work. Anything you write about will be taken to be your personal opinion... somehow. (So does that mean an author is evil if there's a villain in their book? I guess so, by the logic of your average reader.) Still, a good analysis as usual.

And since I mentioned writers, on to an article of interest for both them and game developers. Via Bikini Armor Battle Damage, here's a well-illustrated Gamasutra piece about realistic female armor and related issues -- male characters get their share of absurdity too. Come on, people. It's not that hard to go out there and learn the first thing about this stuff.

Last but not least, it was with some interest that I read this review of a high-brow roguelike that doesn't just generate a world, but entire cultures, and models the effects they have on ordinary people -- an intriguing example of what videogames can be. And we need that kind of exploration, in a creative field dominated by immature power fantasies.